I Want to Be a Millionaire!

The day I turned 18 years of age, I began calling my favorite game show, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" repeatedly. I would watch the show, intently, and the moment Regis would say, "The lines are open," I would begin calling. And calling...and calling.

I wanted to be on the show. I knew I wouldn't be able to physically or emotionally make it through the entire show. I'd faint, pass out, roll over, fall off the chair, not be able to walk up to the podium...I knew the moment the lights hit me, the moment the audience started cheering, the moment the suspenseful music keyed up...I was a goner. That idea didn't stop the dream though.

To be on the show, hopefuls had to call the 1800 number, when the phone lines were open, answer three multiple-choice questions correctly, and they'd enter names into a random drawing. I called and called and called. When I was eighteen, the only phone I could use was the landline telephone because I had very few minutes on my cell phone (bag phone, box phone, rock phone, whatever....it was old school.). So, at 8:01PM, after the hour-long show, I started dialing the number. "No need to remind me the number, Regis," I'd say to myself (I had memorized the number.). I'd call. Busy. I'd call again. Busy. I'd keep calling. Busy. Busy. Busy. One day though, I got through.

The task was simple. Answer three multiple-choiced questions, get them all right, and my name would be entered in a "random drawing" to be on the show. I must admit, the first time, I got so nervous, I answered the first question incorrectly. I tried calling back. Busy. This went on for weeks. No one (not even my parents) human being knew my obsession with "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"

Summer came and went, all the while, I continued my quest for the million dollars. My world was about to change though. It was time for me to leave my parents' nest and venture off to college.

I was a little guy...short, skinny (at the time), sheltered. My most rebellious activity was calling "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" after it was time for me to be asleep. I wasn't socially ready for college, but I was eighteen and ready or not, here I came.

I met my roommate, Jake. He was a nice guy and didn't mind my addiction to WWTBAM. In fact, he wasn't in the room most evenings, so there was no competition for the phone nor hiding my compulsiveness.

My freshman year went well. I remember getting through to the automated version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and I even answered the three back-to-back, nerve racking questions correctly. I just knew my name would be entered in the drawing and selected at random to come to New York. Finals or no finals, school project or not...I was going.

I didn't tell anyone about my name being admitted into the random drawing. I kind of wanted it to be a surprise to all (and me). Also, I wanted to say, "Oh, yeah, right, that one time I called and entered my name...I vaguely remember that." I didn't want people to think I had called over 100 times.

Sophomore year starts and my roommates knew I loved the show. They were (and are) the in-your-face, friendly, loud, obnoxious, roommates that I wish every college kid could have. Jeremy, JoeDavid, Jayson, Josh, Jared...I think all I was missing was a Jingle-Hymer Schmidt...All of their names: J. All of their interests: soccer. My name: B. My interest: Becoming a Millionaire.

They knew when they arrived "home" from practice, that at 7:00, I would have been found on the couch (futon), already fed, with phone in hand. They'd tease me, poke me, throw their shin guards at me, fart on me...you know...normal roommate stuff.

Our suite (That sounds awfully prestigious...let me change that...)...our combining dorm rooms-- had a bathroom separating two living areas. Because we were so cool and liked each other, we decided to move all of the beds (bunk beds) into one room and have a living room on the other side.

8:01, I start calling. All of the Js started playing annoyingly loud music, began to form a mosh pit, opened the door so every Tom, Dick, and Harry could enter...you know the drill. Busy. I dial again. Not busy. I hear a ring. I hear a ring. It is ringing. Oh my sweet Lord. It. is. ringing.

"Welcome to Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" a real voice answered. A real voice. I had to make a decision and I had to make a decision quickly. I do not want to alert the Js that I am on the phone with Regis Philman. They'd sabotage it. I had to be cool, calm...I did not want to draw any attention to me whatsoever.

One of the Js was in the shower, so I couldn't (I could have, but didn't particularly want to) venture through the bathroom. So, like a gazelle, I sauntered into the bedroom, through the outside hallway, and climbed atop my bed. I scurried into the corner of my bed (by my pillow) and began whispering to THE Regis Philman.

"Hi!...I mean, Hello." I said excitedly.

"Welcome to Who Wants to be a Millionaire Hotline," Regis repeated.



Momma's Fingers

The world is full of acronyms: USA, PETA, CIA, FBI...the list could go on and on. One of the most widely accepted and understood acronyms, especially in the midwest, is VBS. Being raised in a southern Baptist household, I quickly became accustomed to Vacation Bible School. Every summer, my mother would sign my little sister, Lindsey, and me up for VBS. Lutherans had VBS the first week of June, Church of Christ had the second, Methodists had the third...Lindsey and I would attend so many VBSs that when we went back to school from summer break and our teacher would ask us, "So, what did you do this summer?," we'd reply, "VBS."

In fifth grade, VBS is not cool. At least it wasn't when I was 11. However, attending church never was an option in my parents' house; nor, was attending VBS. Each VBS had a theme: "Cowboys for Christ," "Swimming with the Savior," ... you get the point.  One of the churches, however, would always have the fifth graders dress up as shepherds and lead their "flock" (the younger children) around to their different activities. My sister was in kindergarten at the time so you could imagine her excitement when she plows into my room on a Monday morning shaking me wildly to arise out of bed screaming, "Brent, Brent...you get to be a shepherd and lead me around at VBS. Aren't you super excited?"

No. I wasn't. I did not want to don the enormous bed sheet, walk through a strange church (with a over-sized pipe cleaner curved in the shape of a staff) leading annoying little kids around that got to wear whatever they wanted as they pointed and laughed at the queen size bed sheet I had to contort onto my 75 pound body. Of course, what made the outfit was the rope (donated by a local farmer, of course) that served as a belt and a head piece.

I wanted to stay in bed.

My mother is the nicest person in the world. At least as far as the people I have met, there has been no one who I have ever seen who is as kind as she. My mom sings in the shower, sings in the car, sings in the kitchen, dances in the hallway (at our house or anyone's house), cries at commercials, hugs strangers, loves to talk to people as they wait in line, asks wandering kids if they need a ride to school when its raining....I mean, this lady is almost too nice. She has never met a stranger and loves everyone-- -everyone---and everything. Animal, plant, neighbor---you name it....she loves it.

So, you can imagine after I told Lindsey to get the heck out of my room and leave me alone, the passionate, caring, gentle mother tip-toeing into my room to awake me for the day.

"Brent, honey....it's time to rise and shine! Aren't you excited for VBS this morning? I made a great breakfast for you....it's waiting for you in the kitchen...oh, Brent...I am excited for the day. Wake up and meet the day...oh, Brent...there you are! Come on...get up...let's eat breakfast together."
Uh...Grrrrr...I want to sleep, lady.

After rolling out of bed and stumbling into the kitchen, I noticed Lindsey all dolled up for the occasion. Oh, wonderful.  I was waiting for the both of them to break out any minute in chorus of "Jesus Loves the Little Children." Hurrying around to get everything in place and everyone dressed, we readied ourselves by loading up in the 1984 Plymoth Acclaim.

If you have siblings, you know the number one fight all siblings have, every road trip, every day, every jaunt....
"I call front." Lindsey and I both dash out to the car to see who will be victorious. I thought, "I am bigger. I am faster. I am smarter...this should be easy, right?" As I surprisingly watch my sister take a slight lead, I do what any big brother would do. I trip her so I can slide back into the lead, assuring my seat in the front.
Busting tail into the front seat, I quickly lock the door and buckle my seat belt before anyone can pull me away.

Carrying my 5-year-old sister out like a newborn baby Jesus, my mother held my sister, unlocked the passenger's door, and said, "Oh my Brent, even though you might have bruised Lindsey's leg, what hurts the most, is that you have bruised my heart." She continued, "Lindsey and I are hurt, not physically, but emotionally because you would put your selfish desires over the general safety of our family."

Here is where the hammer hit. She finished by saying, "Now what do you think you can do or sacrifice to let Lindsey know you're sorry and that you love this family?" (I knew she wanted me to "sacrifice" the front seat.) So, without mumbling a word, I climbed into the back seat, upset...angry...embarrassed....
As mom gently shut the door and walked around the car approaching her driver's seat, Lindsey looked back and gave the little-sister-smirk; a "Ha, ha--got you this time, bro..." kind of smirk. I gave her the finger.

Mom entered the car and said, "Three cheers for VBS!"

My parents live way (not just a little "way", but a big "way") out in the country. They live so far out in the country, getting to school took twenty minutes....getting to town, minimally, would take fifteen.
As mom and Lindsey sang some Bible song, I sulked in the back seat thinking how this day could get any worse. As I looked up ahead, I knew it was going to go from really bad to super worse.

A strange, middle-aged lady stood in the middle of the dirt road waving her left hand in the air.
If you're from the country, seeing a strange woman in the middle of nowhere waving for you to stop means one of two things.
1. She's hungover from the night before and is lost without a mode of transportation; or
2. She's crazy.

Either way, I categorize anyone who stands in the middle of nowhere waving down oncoming vehicles as the latter. I knew mom saw this as an opportunity. Being the he Good Samari-mom she was, I knew she was going to stop. As we approached Crazy, I knew something looked fishy. This middle-aged woman stood with her right arm wrapped in a filthy, white T-Shirt, kinda bouncing up and down without much patience as Lindsey tried to roll down the manual-powered window.
"I need help," Crazy screams.
"Hit the gas, mom," my voice from the back echoed through the countryside.

"Gooooood morning!" my mom greeted Crazy.
"Uh, hi..." Crazy started. You could tell something was wrong.
She pointed to down the road to a vacant horse trailer attached to a beat-up, green truck. "I was going to take my horse, "Beauty" (Side note: Beauty is way too popular horse's name.) for a walk in the countryside this morning. When getting him out of the trailer, I wrapped the halter around my palm so the excess lead would not be dragging on the ground."
"Great story, lady...Mom...get me to the church." Why I became so persistent on getting to VBS, I have no clue, but I knew I wanted to leave this situation immediately.
Her story continued, "Well, my horse got spooked, and ran off quickly," she held up her hand..."and the halter ripped off all of my fingers."
There stood this strange, fingerless lady in the middle of the country, blood gushing like geysers from her knuckles, and she wanted us to do what?!
Her hand, or lack there of, was a sight to see. Out of her knuckles swayed these thin, limp, white spaghetti-noodle- lookin-things...kind of like a baby octopus tentacles.
I have always been one to adhere to safety, order, and especially, cleanliness. Once I saw this alien-like woman getting ready to suck our heads off our bodies with her crazy fingers, I did what any reasonable young man of eleven would do. I unbuckled my seat belt, leaned up to the front of the car, looked my mother in dead in the eyes and said, "Mom, we're going to die if you don't put the pedal to the metal. Get out of here."
And, without surprise, my mother, said, "Oh, my...well, we must get you help. Come on in."
With a quick assessment of my and Crazy's options, I discovered that the only place for her to sit was...yep, you guessed it, by yours truly.
This was not going to happen. I had already been forced to don shepherd's garb. I had already been humiliated and forced to sit in the back seat. I was putting my foot down. I leaned over and locked the side door. Crazy was NOT invited in to sit by me.
One-handed, six-fingered Crazy attempted to open the door. Duh...who in their right mind would let this, obviously nutso woman into an enclosed vehicle, in the middle of nowhere?
The Good Samari-mom leaned back and unlocked the door. Drats.
Crazy entered. Everyone in the car froze. Mom knew not what to do. Lindsey was still humming some children's song -- probably "Where is Pinky?" (That is what I was thinking about breaking into song with.)
Interruption of Story for Time Period Announcement:  This was before cell phones, so our options were rather limited. Even if we had our cell phones, I am sure they would have not received much, if any, reception. The light-bulb-spark came to mom. "I know. We can take you to church! They have a phone and it's not too far out of the way!"
I am sure the lady thought she made a mistake getting in the car with a lady that, instead of taking this dying stranger to the hospital (like anyone in their right mind would do), my mother decided to have a higher power heal her. Actually, the church was pretty close, so that wasn't too out-of-sorts, but I am sure the lady thought we were out of our mind (We were.).
I have never hugged the door/window as much as I had hugged the 1984 Plymoth Acclaim's door and window. In fact, I think the left side of my face was numb by the time we rolled into the church's parking lot. On the way there, I took a quick look-see over at Crazy. At that exact time, she had unveiled her once-so-nicely-wrapped hand, so she could see what it was doing. Bad timing, Brent. I threw up in my mouth.
As we rolled into the church parking lot, all the VBSers were there, playing outside as participants registered. Before the car came to a halt, I tucked and rolled out of the moving vehicle alarming everyone in my shouting voice to take cover that a fingerless lady was getting ready to appear. Young children hid behind their mothers...older children looked at me like I was nutso.
Mom scurried in to the church to use the telephone to call 9-1-1. Lindsey stayed in the car.
In the time it took the ambulance to get to the church, Crazy needed to speak privately to my family. Mom dragged me back to the car (kicking and screaming) while Lindsey was making small-talk with Crazy.
Crazy started, "My husband died last year and both of my kids live out of state. Would you mind following me up to the hospital so I could have a ride back when the operation is complete?
"Sorry, lady..I got to be a shepherd." I quickly uttered without missing a beat.
"Well, of course we can," mom said with a pat on her back (She couldn't very well shake her hand.).
The ambulance came. Mom told me I could stay at the church and she'd be back to get me sometime (probably Wednesday or Thursday, I thought--I'd sleep in the pew, bathe in the baptismal....I can see it now.). Lindsey stayed with me.
Off went the ambulance to Wichita (I lived in Augusta---no hospital at the time--Andover, neither)...my mom followed close behind.
My mom waited in the waiting room in the Emergency wing of Wesley Medical Center (probably reading the Gideon Bible and praying extensively for Crazy) when the doctor came out and asked to speak with a Connie Wolf.
"Hi Doctor! It's a pleasure to meet you." my mom greets the doctor like he is a celebrity or something.
"Ma'am, the only way this lady is going to get her fingers back is if you go back to the field, pick them up and deliver them to me."
I would have said to the doctor, "Well, that sucks for her!"
But, not my mom. the doctor supplied her with latex gloves and a Ziplock baggie and mom skipped out of the hospital on a mission for four fingers. She drove all the way back to Augusta and the search began.
Through the dust, gravel, mud, animal droppings, brush, mom searched on her hands and knees for hands...I mean fingers. The Ziplock baggie came in "handy" as mom found finger #1 first. With a ker-plunk, she dropped the twelve ouncer in the bag. "It was like a medallion hunt," my mom later told us. Yea, right---you're looking for something shiney, kind of round...but honey, you ain't goin' to get any money when you find the strange lookin--rather phallic-looking- fingers laying in the countryside.
Finger #2 was found...right by Mr Pinky himself. Now, only Mr. Ringman was missing. My mom started crying. Her time was running out-"I have to find this ring. Her husband is gone--please Lord, let me find this ring."
With a defeated look on her face, a Ziplock baggie full of three fingers, and tears rolling down her face, mom handed the bag-of-fingers to the doctor.

Within the hour (or so), the doctors were able to sew back Crazy's fingers on (Well, except the ring finger, of course). Out came Crazy from the ER and instant friendship ensued. BFFs they were---two of-a-kind-, two crazy women...with nineteen fingers.

So, yes...somewhere out there, beneath the pale moonlight, lies a finger...a ring finger...if found contact either of the two aforementioned crazy ladies.


A Five-Gallon Bucket & a Pizza Box Lid

A few months ago, Megan, Norah Kate and I were playing a game in the living room when we heard a strange noise. Upon investigating the noise, we knew it was coming from the vent above the stove. Because I know nothing about the mechanics of kitchen electronics and the like. I didn't want to take the foil-like ceiling tiles down to see what would greet me, brainstorming with my mechanical friends and family began. I first started the questioning by inviting my friends on Facebook to help me. With numerous friends telling me to get a BB gun and shooting like mad up at my stove vent, I knew this could be quite an adventure.
As the days went by, the noise got louder. Was it a squirrel? A bird? A bat? A small child? Answers, reasonable ones, were not coming to me. Until one day when we were heading to the park...We had just finished eating at one of our family's favorite restaurants and Megan needed to stop by the house to pick up something. I pulled into the driveway for her to quickly "run in." When I saw her spin a triple axle and return to the back porch rather quickly, I knew we had something. Quickly grabbing Norah Kate, I anxiously approached the back porch not knowing what to expect.
"It's loose." When I peaked in the house, I noticed the aluminum foil ceiling tiles that once separated us from the large unknown mammal were on the kitchen floor. Debris (looking almost like cedar mulch) accompanied the tiles. I am not too fearful of many things, but rabid, unknown animals kinda scare me.
With both feet now in the house, I crept up closer to the stove. I told Megan and Norah Kate that I loved them and if anything happened to me to run like mad out to the car and call 9-1-1.
Inching closer to the crime scene, I noticed that where the aluminum foil ceiling tiles were, sits a motorized fan with angled blades. Cautiously looking into the fan, I found what had been making the noise. It was a squirrel. His head peaked out to say, "Hello, there!" When I saw his beedy, vermit-like, cute, yet chilling face, I sprinted outside moving my family away from the door.
"It's a squirrel, guys. It's alive. I see it. Stand back."
I knew my next step was in sequence. Like any other reasonable man, I called my dad. No answer. I called my father-in-law. Since he lives in town, over he came with two pair of gloves. My mother-in-law joined him (Who wouldn't?).
I went out to the garage to get Megan's rabbit cage, thinking we could coerce him into it. When I brought out the hutch (It's kinda large.), Carol (mother-in-law) and Megan looked at me like I was nuts (Speaking of nuts...I thought, "We could lure him out of there with some....Great idea!). Of course the hutch was way too big to affix to the stove vent, so out went that idea. The squirrel though, gave us a new one.
As Dave (father-in-law) and I talked about our options, down popped the squirrel's tail. Like the back of a Davy Crockett hat, there lie a brown, bushy, squirrel tail, ready for the taking. Dave looked at me and said, "If I pull that, you get the bucket ready, ok?"
Like church bells, Dave was going to yank that dangling tail in hopes that it'd propel the squirrel down into the 5-gallon bucket I was holding. I knew (I had seen it on many movies.) that once Dave did that, the squirrel would get angry and affix itself to my face not allowing me to see as I hurridly wail my arms in the air searching for a way to get it off my face. Then, the person without the squirrel-face, would take a pan and knock the silly and the squirrel off my face. I knew that probably wasn't the best option. He said, "Ready?"
"Dave, I don't think I can do this!" I chickened out just as the squirrel's tail shimmied up the vent hole. No longer could we grab the squirrel; in fact, we could barely see his smirking little face. Dave had been there for quite some time, so I said I'd rig up a special capturing device to catch Mr. Squirrel. "Wait here!" I ran outside, grabbed the five-gallon bucket (Thanks Hometown Hardware!) came darting back inside, shuffled through Megan's assortment of cookbooks, grabbed the one I thought would work best (No, I wasn't planning on cooking squirrel.), and propped up the bucket up against the hole, sitting Betty Crocker's Best of 2009 Cookbook since the bucket wouldn't reach the stove by itself. Before affixing the bucket to the hole, Megan had a great idea.
" We should put something for him to eat. I am sure he is hungry. " So, Megan meticulously peanut-buttered some whole-wheat bread and gently placed the delicacy in the bottom of the bucket. "He's sure to come down and eat that!" The bucket and plan were in place. We said our good-byes to the Galliarts and anxiously awaited Mr. Squirrel's decent.
Minutes turned into hours...hours into days...a couple of days later, as the family was watching television, we heard the noise. We all jumped off the couch quicker than we ever have before in our lifetime and sprinted to the kitchen. He was in the bucket. I started to grab the bucket, but realized there wasn't a top on the bucket and didn't know how to contain our live-in once I removed the bucket. Megan grabbed a pizza box lid. I said, "When I pull this out, you will have to put that lid on the box SUPER fast!" With a "1-2-3-Team!," I started removing the bucket. Mr. Squirrel jumped up to hold on to the ledge of the hole, so I had to get a stick to pry his grip off. Falling into the bucket, the squirrel was not happy. In fact, he was so discontent, he was moving anxiously about...too fast for Megan to put the lid atop the bucket. So, like our nightmares had suggested, he hopped out of that box and was running loose in our house. We shut the door to the dining room hoping to contain him in the dining room / kitchen area. He was volleying around the house like a tennis ball. Running to go get the broom, all I (and the city of Winfield) could hear was the screaming and shrills of my wife. Galloping around the kitchen, all she needed was a stick horse to complete the look. In fact, I thought this was the day that I would see my 2nd child (Megan is pregnant. I thought this event would surely put her into labor.). With Megan's flailing arms and my guided broom movements, we focused the squirrel on his exit---the door. Once he saw daylight, he sprinted right out the door.
Norah Kate, unbeknownst to us, had grabbed our video camera, and video taped the whole thing. Of course the video wasn't pointing at anything but her feet, but the sound captured a lot of great screams and shrills.
What a day.


Potty Training 101

My two-year-old daughter has shown no interest in potty training. In all of the books my wife (Megan) and I have read, all of the "experts" say not to push the issue. So, trying not to be "pushy parents," we have let our daughter, Norah, explore her options. Yesterday, Megan went to go get our daughter after she awoke from her nap. Megan gently brought Norah down from her crib and placed her on the floor. Norah started running to the toilet. Megan was putting away clothes while she heard Norah start singing in the bathroom. A few minutes passed and Megan heard, "Mommy, look!" Megan walked into the bathroom and found Norah with her mouth wide open looking into the toilet at her poop. Without training or guidance, Norah had pooped in the pot. She had stripped herself down to nothing, climbed atop the toilet and dropped the kids off while I was at work and her mom was putting away laundry. How did she learn? Beats the crap out of me.

Hyperbole [hahy-pur-buh-lee] : noun. 1. an obvious and intentional exaggeration

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